A new superhero

Imagine this.  A person is in imminent danger.  A superhero steps in between the person and the harm.  The superhero absorbs the visual rays of harm.  The person walks away unharmed.  The superhero used his or her super powers and feels no better and no worse.

Photo by lexaarts/iStock / Getty Images

Imagine this.  You are the superhero.  I will give you some time to reset the image in your head.  You are the superhero who steps between the person and the harm.

Did you do this in the past week?  Today?  Did you “play” superhero to protect your child from harm?  Your spouse?  Friend?  Client?

I recently had one of those days when I got to the end and felt like I played human shield all day.  On further reflection, I realized that my first instinct, when I see harm approaching someone, is to “play” superhero.  I use the word “play” because I don’t have superhero powers. 

This is what happens when I play superhero: I see the person and the imminent harm and my first reaction is to transfer the harm to myself.  I step in between the harm and the person; I absorb the harm so the person feels less.

The harm often comes in the form of emotional pain.  When I absorb someone else’s pain, it stays with me; depleting my emotional resources, energy and creativity.  This interferes with my ability to be supportive and empathetic.  Over time, repeated attempts to absorb harm affects my relationship with that person.  It can cause me to be resentful towards them, even if for a short period of time.

And I am not the only one harmed.  The other person is also harmed.  He or she loses the opportunity to experience disappointment, frustration, and many negative emotions.  The more opportunities missed, the less the person can practice resilience, perseverance and problem solving.

There are better ways to play superhero.  And it will eliminate the problems laid out above.  Imagine this.  You see the person and the imminent harm.  You do any of the following:

·      Listen

·      Stand with them

·      Lift them up with encouragement

·      Hand them tools they request

·      Advise when asked

·      Tell them you are sorry they are hurting

·      Ask “what do you think would help?”

Doing any of these prevents you from attempting to take away their pain.